Welcome class in Pankow: How Ukrainian children find their way into a normal life

Ukraine refugees

Welcome course in Pankow: integration with warmth of heart

In welcome classes, refugee children from Ukraine come into contact not only with German but also with their peers (symbol image)

Photo: Britta Pedersen / dpa

How can Ukrainian children in Berlin be taught despite trauma? A school in Pankow shows how: with dedication and patience.

Berlin. Dmytro sits half sunk in his chair, looking at the small white piece of paper in his hand. All the other children look at him, who is sitting at the table with another Ukrainian schoolgirl in the middle of the classroom. With a slight Ukrainian accent, he reads out the English sentence written on the piece of paper. His voice is calm and quiet, yet audible throughout the classroom. Everyone is silent and listening to him spellbound. “Well done,” his English teacher praises him with a smile and nods after Dmytro finishes the sentence. From the back row comes a brief appreciative applause from one of his classmates. Then the queue continues.

Pankow School creates contacts and everyday routines through welcome lessons

Dmytro, which actually has a different name, attends an integrated welcome class at SchuleEins, an independent community school run by Pankower Früchtchen, who already has experience dealing with refugee children from Syria. Integrative because he attends regular classes and only attends a separate class with other Ukrainian students for German lessons. In addition to the English lessons, where Dmytro communicates either with his knowledge of English or with his translator app on his smartphone, German is spoken in class.

According to Assol Urrutia-Grothe, second CEO of Pankower Früchtchen, this circumstance does not pose a problem: “It is not primarily about imparting knowledge in history or other subjects, but about learning the intonation of language, building social contacts and him. Giving stability in everyday life. ” A lot is already happening with emotional language and sports.

Urrutia-Grothe is also the random foster mother of Dmytro and his sister, who together fled the war eight weeks ago from a suburb of Kyiv – without their parents. She met the two for the first time in a collective residence in Wandlitz. “The children could not stay there without the parents’ care, but there was no place, neither in foster families nor in homes.” Therefore, she took them in with her and her family. “They were not even registered. Anyone could have taken it with them. It was scary.”

In order to enable them to have a regular everyday life and be in contact with German-speaking peers, they were enrolled in the school – with initial obstacles: Dmytro could not present any vaccinations and had to obtain the measles vaccination, i.a. thing. It took four weeks before the necessary vaccination status was achieved. “It was a bit of a nightmare, to take care of the two children depends very much on whether they can go to school or not,” says Urrutia-Grothe, mother of two.

Between Pankow and Kiev: Ukrainian children live in a parallel world

Dmytro has been going to SchuleEins for four weeks now, eight weeks after he and his sister came to Berlin via Warsaw. They spent three or four nights in the Polish capital, but according to Urrutia-Grothe, they would not talk about it. In general, the two had to deal with traumatic experiences: “Due to the bombings in Ukraine, they had to sleep fully clothed and therefore have sleep problems today.” The sister was even so stressed that she had to be treated in the hospital.

At the same time, they lived permanently in two parallel worlds: In addition to the welcome class at SchuleEin, Dmytro also participates in digital lessons in his hometown. He receives homework via his smartphone, which he either has time for in class at SchuleEins, or for which he has to sacrifice his time after school. “Ukrainians expect the children to be able to return soon,” said Urrutia-Grothe, explaining the double burden.

Due to the close contact with his home country, however, his everyday life is repeatedly brought to his attention: he recently received a message on his smartphone that two of his former classmates had died in a rocket attack. Even if the mother calls, everything is immediately hidden, regardless of the context.

Solidarity among students, teachers and parents

Despite this strain, Dmytros’ development shows how important it is to participate in the welcome class. “In the beginning, he always walked around with his cap on and hardly spoke. But he is becoming more and more open, ”remarked his foster mother. Teacher Rainer Rabinowitsch, who has cared for both Dmytro and his Ukrainian classmate for several weeks, can also report this. “Both children are smiling now. In the first week, they were not only reserved, but like a wall.” He tries to convey as much normality as possible to the Ukrainian children, for example by giving them space to present their language in class or by wishing them a good day in their mother tongue.

At the same time, the classmates also contribute to the well-being of their Ukrainian peers by being particularly sensitive to them and engaging: “When a Ukrainian girl came to our school for the first time, some of the students stayed longer to get to know her and to even prepare. imagine the space, “Rabinowitsch recalls. Even before that, the children had shown solidarity when they organized a cake bazaar for Ukraine and were immediately willing to take the Ukrainian children into their class.

A benefit concert in collaboration with the Caritas clinics also showed that solidarity is a top priority for Pankow Fruits, SchuleEin’s sponsor. “Everyone is involved, everyone is willing to help,” says Urrutia-Grothe, praising the support of students, teachers and parents.

You can read more news from Pankow here.

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